In this, as in all things, Paul Keating was right. It was the former Aussie Prime Minister, a Beethoven of political invective, who called his country’s Green Party 'a bunch of opportunists and Trots hiding behind a gum tree trying to pretend they’re the Labor Party’. Keating's acid scherzo could apply just as readily to our own Greens, self-appointed conservationists of righteousness. Caroline Lucas, their only MP, has been at the forefront of calls for a 'progressive alliance' between left-wing parties. On Wednesday, she wrote to Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron proposing 'some form of cooperation in a handful of seats to create the best possible chance of beating the Tories,’ adding:
'Many of the public want us to join forces to help stop the Tories from further wrecking our country for generations to come and we hope you will be willing to at least take the first step and meet with us.’
Lucas appreciates that not everyone can be as virtuous and selfless as Greens but urged her ethically compromised opposite numbers to try really hard. She continued:
'We understand that, in the immediate run up to an election, signalling a willingness to work with other parties might be difficult but we hope you’ll agree that the times we are living in require leaders to be courageous and visionary, to actively build a more positive politics.'
Twenty-four hours later, Lucas was in Bristol West launching her party's general election manifesto and declaring them 'very confident' of picking up the seat in June. Fair enough, you might say; the Tories are going to lose some seats to the Left over Brexit. The only problem is: Bristol West is held by Labour's Thangam Debbonaire. The Greens want to replace her with their finance spokesperson Molly Scott Cato. It's an odd progressive alliance in which the daughter of an immigrant who spent decades working with domestic violence victims before entering Parliament is expected to stand aside for an MEP and 'sustainability economist' after just two years in the job. 'Progressive alliance' is a slippery term to define but it appears to involve Labour voters becoming progressively more allied with parties that aren't Labour.
Of course, no single party has ownership of hypocrisy. The Tories are for individual freedom and so made an authoritarian Home Secretary their leader. The SNP are a sentimental old clan who love Scotland but wish it could live up to their ideals. But no one's neck is as brass as the Greens'.
At the start of April, leader Caroline Lucas and some bloke called Jonathan Bartley penned a piece for the Guardian saying workers should have three-day weekends. (Bartley is also leader because the Greens believe in gender balance and nothing would undermine the hard-fought gains of Britain's heterosexual white men more than a girl running the Green Party solo. You can see why they don't like to draw attention to him; last time he was on telly he accidentally pledged their support for 'extreme Brexit'.) Still, we have a sluggish economy and working less to boost productivity is no nuttier than any of the Greens' other policies. Then that shin-kicking imp Guido Fawkes had to go spoil it by asking if the Greens gave their own workers three-day weekends. No comment.
Another profile in Green integrity was on display when Caroline Lucas tried to get a party member suspended for tweeting out another Guido story about the Green hierarchy.
And it's not limited to south of the border. The Scottish Greens are independent of the Green Party of England and Wales but still working on autonomy from the SNP. Last year, their leader Patrick Harvie (who also has his own back-up leader; for swampies, they're not bad at job creation) pledged a citizens' initiative to decide on a second independence referendum. Then Nicola Sturgeon said she wanted to decide and Harvie promptly scrapped his manifesto commitment. Curiously, the SNP have since gone very easy on the Greens in the local election campaign.
They get away with all this because the truth is no one votes Green to protect the environment or see wealth redistributed. It doesn't matter if they drop this policy or if that proposal is impractical. Voting Green is about feeling morally superior to lesser mortals and salving the conscience of the guilty rich. That's why they push for the defeat of a Labour MP and call it 'progressive'. Pragmatic politics, the kind that changes lives and communities, has no instant feel-good factor. It's dull and dreary and takes years of hard work. It's the kind of thing the Labour Party specialises in, while others hide behind a tree and pretend to be something they're not.
Stephen Daisley is a columnist for the Scottish Daily Mail